Tag Archives: Lenore Broughton

Conservative megadonor casts doubt on ballot security

Lenore Broughton is a generous supporter of conservative politicians. But she’s an intensely private person. She hates having her picture taken, and she usually lets her money do the talking in the political arena.

On Friday afternoon, she stepped out of the shadows for the first time — ironically, to do something that’s pretty damn shady.

She sent a letter to all the town clerks in Vermont warning that the state’s election might be hacked. Or, as she put it, she was warning of “the surprisingly (sic) ease with which the AccuVote-OS optical scanners can be hacked resulting in the switching of votes.”

Her alarm springs from an article posted by Vermont’s most biased news source, Vermont Watchdog. The story was written in mid-September, and was immediately and thoroughly debunked by Secretary of State Jim Condos.

Perhaps Broughton doubts the representations of our Democratic, but scrupulously fair, Secretary of State. After all, Secretaries of State affiliated with her favorite party are often guilty of electoral shenanigans. The VTGOP has frequently made accusations against Condos or his functionaries, but none have ever panned out.

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What if Phil Scott loses?

In my second-most-recent post, I listed all the bad news visited upon Vermont Republicans over the past few days. I ended by asking “What if Phil Scott loses?”

I’ll get to that question, but in the meantime, WCAX released its own poll showing Scott with a seven-point lead over Sue Minter, which has triggered much rejoicing Chez Phil.

In his lede, WCAX’s usually reliable Kyle Midura made an unwarranted inference: since the VPR Poll had shown a statistical dead heat, the TV poll shows that Scott is “pulling ahead.”

Which, c’mon now. These are two polls from different organizations with possibly differing methodologies. (We don’t know because WCAX hasn’t released any details. VPR has disclosed all of that.) Drawing that direct a line between the two polls is misleading at best.

What we have are two data points. One (VPR) from an in-state academic polling outfit, one (WCAX) from a New Jersey-based for-profit firm.

Pollster Paul Braun engaged in some speculation that ought to unnerve those placing a lot of weight on his survey. He credited the WCAX gubernatorial debate for driving Scott’s alleged momentum — when, in fact, debate audiences tend to be very small, and the impact of debates on public opinion is also small. (Unless you pull a Trump, of course.) There is no evidence to support Braun’s assertion.

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Big donors, big money in targeted House districts

Two years ago, the Republican State Leadership Committee funneled $370,000 into Vermont, backing candidates in close races for the Vermont House. The VTGOP won several of those seats and took away the Democrats’ supermajority status.

So far this year, the RSLC has spent a lot less. But a handful of closer-to-home moneybags have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve donated more than $100,000 to individual Republican House candidates and House Minority Leader Don Turner’s political action committee.

In the small-dollar world of State House campaigns, that’s a huge amount of money.

First, a hat tip to Green Mountain Daily’s Sue Prent, who reported on the Franklin County iteration of this phenomenon a couple weeks ago. Turns out, it’s only part of a bigger pattern. But because the money is broadly dispersed, the pattern has attracted little attention.

Two of the donors are familiar names to anyone who follows Vermont politics. The other two might be new to you.

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How much will the RGA spend in Vermont?

Sky’s the limit, apparently.

Last week’s campaign finance filings showed that a Super PAC operated by the Republican Governors Association has already spent more than $500,000 on behalf of Phil Scott.

And there’s only one way it makes sense for them to spend that much money that early: they intend to spend a whole lot more between now and Election Day. I mean, look: they’ve put out a bunch of smiley-face mailers and TV ads in the dead zone of August, for Pete’s sake. That’s a complete waste unless it’s only the opening salvo in a concerted campaign.

I think Lenore Broughton’s record for Super PAC spending in Vermont, roughly $1 million, is doomed. At this rate, the RGA will easily top $2 million, and will almost certainly outspend the candidate himself.

Remind me again how Phil Scott is the authentic Vermonter in this race.

And when the RGA turns negative on Sue Minter, and you know they will, you’ll have to remind me again how Phil Scott hates Washington-style attack ads.

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The VTGOP’s looming crisis of conscience

Sooner or later, the Vermont Republican Party will have to sort through some stuff. Some unpleasant, downright Trumpian stuff swirling around Rutland these days, sparked by the proposed settlement of 100 Syrian refugees.

It won’t be an issue this fall — except in Rutland. And it will be interesting to see what, if anything, Phil Scott has to say about it. To judge by his usual metrics, he’ll come out with a mealy-mouthed thing about taking everyone’s views into consideration and finding common ground.

Instead of, you know, the right thing: condemning the dog-whistle racialism being spewed by opponents of settlement — the likes of Rutland First and its allies.

The real moment of truth is likely to come next March, when the nativists will almost certainly field candidates who would block the settlement and try to defenestrate incumbent Mayor Chris Louras, the primary author of the settlement plan.

That’s when the VTGOP will have to choose sides. Or, you know, duck and cover.

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Corporate cash: a marginally relevant issue

A single issue dominated the Democratic gubernatorial race this past week. It’s an issue that’s way, way, waaaaaay down on my priority list for this campaign.

Corporate contributions.

I know, I know, “corporate” has become synonymous with “evil” in Vermont liberal circles, and “corporate contributions” synonymous with “evil money in politics.” Let me explain, please.

There is a severe problem with money in American politics. Some of this is corporate, a lot of it comes from the pockets of our richest citizens. Bernie Sanders has made campaign finance reform one of the centerpieces of his presidential campaign, and I applaud him for that.

Vermont, however, is a different story.

There is precious little corporate cash in our politics. Look: When Dunne returned his corporate contributions, he lost $16,000. That’s a drop in the bucket; he’s raised more than half a million dollars for his campaign. Minter is now returning $11,000 to corporate donors; her warchest is also somewhere north of a half million.

I do believe there’s too much money in Vermont politics, but there are at least three items that concern me more than corporate largesse.

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All aboard the Bruce Lisman gravy train

(or, How to Spend 600 G’s Without Really Trying)

The year 2012 brought forth a pair of shameless hucksters political consultants cashing in on conservatives with more money than sense. There was Randy Brock, who lost by 20 points to Shumlin and, in the process, spent $100,000 on campaign “manager” Darcie Johnston.

And lest we forget Lenore Broughton, Montgomery Ward heiress and would-be conservative game-changer. Her right-hand man, Tayt Brooks, squandered more than a million Broughton Bucks in a fruitless effort to influence the 2012 election through the “grass root” (singular) organization Vermonters First. Once bitten, twice shy; Broughton has barely been a factor in Vermont politics since then.

This year brings a new entrant into the Vermont Conservative Consultancy Hall of Shameless: Shawn Shouldice, chief of Capital Connections, the notorious black-hat lobbying shop. She’s attached herself, limpet-like, to the political underside of Bruce Lisman, and she’s milking that cash cow for all it’s worth. (Pardon mixed metaphor.)

Shouldice makes a very good living as an advocate for some of our biggest and dirtiest business groups. Her client list includes the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. Shouldice was also the PR arm of Lisman’s vanity project advocacy group Campaign for Vermont.

Last fall, she stepped away from active lobbying to become the campaign manager of Lisman for Governor. Her salary, according to my reading of the latest campaign finance data: $14,500 per month. On an annual basis, that’s $174,000.

Good Lord.

Now, Shouldice is an experienced lobbyist and advocate. But she is, as one observer put it, “a newbie to campaign management.”

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